Marko Müller is not your average language aficionado—he wants to learn Gaelic, and reads Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare when he is not sweating it out in the gym.
Light bulbs and life
Three years ago, Marko Müller turned his life around. "I had been working in sales and management for around 10 years moving around Bavaria, Sauerland, Dortmund and North Rhein Westfalia. One of my parents was unwell at the time and I needed to decide: career or family. I chose the latter and relocated back to Bielefeld. I didn't have a plan, but decided at some point to take a personal training course, just for myself. I sat the exams, quit my existing job and set up my own business. At some point in all of it, I had a light-bulb moment. The decision changed my life".
There's training and then there's training
Marko drew on the rigour and discipline while learning English and studying Macbeth in high school to apply himself and become a fully qualified personal trainer in under one year.
He then created his own business and has since gone on local radio to discuss health and fitness, run in-house workshops on healthy living and nutrition for one of the region's largest insurance companies, Menze & Menze, and has private personal training clients (none other than NATIVES Commander-in-Chief, Jessica). He saw the potential in devising tailored health and nutrition workshops and lifestyle programmes as a way to reach out to people who work long hours and may not have previously thought about the importance of sport for their wellbeing.
One of the main challenges was finding ways to transfer the existing skills he had in his former corporate career to now being on the other side of a corporation—teaching people about burnout, how to be healthy and work less and live more. "I built on my existing people skills, all that I learned about sales and management and tried to bring it to my new business".
On Shakespeare, Scotland and staying motivated
His love of languages came from his high school experience learning English, followed by a "devastating experience" in his early 20s on a visit to Scotland where he could not understand anyone! After that, he became an autodidact par excellence: he started subscribing to English business journals for language students (Spotlight) and started to read English books.
Years later, he enrolled in a 6-week English language course to further polish his language skills. He has a love of urban fantasy novels and has commenced a love affair with film noir Tarantino classics and sci-fi thrillers á la Matrix (all without that eponymous German dubbing).
Marko is also testament to that old adage that we learn best when we are passionate about something: "When stuff fascinates me, it is as if it is burned into my brain. At some point, I started to experiment with old English. I like the way it is spoken, the way it is written and how it sounds". These days he can randomly recite passages from Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe with concentrated, personal fondness.
English's saucy first cousin, français, was never a language that Marko warmed to "I studied French at school and people told me if you enjoyed English then you would enjoy French. This was bullsh** as I hated French and gave up after half a year". Gaelic, on the other hand, has been a long-time passion project, based on his great empathy with the Scots. He adds laughing that he would have pursued Gaelic, had the Scots voted in favour of independence in the recent September referendum.
And what about the quirkiness of English, its spelling and mix of borrowed words? "In comparison to German, English is a much more accessible language. We're bombarded with English via internet, film and media in our daily lives and this makes it easier to motivate yourself to keep learning. Look at the kids and teens of today—they have much earlier contact with English compared with 20 years ago." Marko believes that if it were the other way round, that is, if deutsch were the all-pervasive global language, then its prevalence would make it more accessible. It was not to be: "History did not turn out that way, I guess", Marko adds with a smile.
This article was written by guest author, Petra Zlatevska.